Back in January, before the #NeverTrump movement really got a head of steam, I wrote a short article expressing why I will never, ever vote for Donald Trump. Others expressed similar sentiments during the primaries. Now that The Donald is the presumptive nominee, however, many of those people are changing their tune. For example, CatholicVote, which originally was very anti-Trump, now seems to be backing away from that position. Of course, CatholicVote has often been a shill for the GOP, so that change of direction isn’t really surprising. For my part, I meant it when I said “never.”
Before I explain why I remain a #NeverTrumper, I want to note that I do understand the temptation for conservatives to vote for Trump. We know for a fact that Hillary Clinton would be a terrible president, and she would be able to shape the Supreme Court for decades to come. Such a thought is frightening. I have conservative friends who loath Trump, but believe that even a slight chance he will appoint good justices outweighs any of his immense negatives. I get that view, I really do. I don’t think such a vote would be immoral, but it would be misguided.
What I do not get is conservatives who have gone beyond holding their noses and voting for Trump to actively supporting and campaigning for him. One might recognize Trump as the lesser of two significant evils, but the choice to support Trump as a solid candidate boggles the mind. Why anyone would listen to such unprincipled people going forward is beyond me.
So why am I still #NeverTrump? Is it because I’m an idealist, expecting a perfect candidate? Is it because I believe we are electing a “pastor in chief” who should be a solid, practicing Christian? Or perhaps I’m not a “realist,” and I’m unwilling to get my hands dirty to make a difference? All these charges have been levied against me and my fellow #NeverTrumpers. Let me address each one.
Objection #1: We Can’t Expect a Perfect Candidate!
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve not voted for the GOP presidential candidate since 2004, electing instead to vote for a third-party candidate in 2008 and 2012. However, after seeing the damage Obama has done, and judging the GOP to be closer to my values than the Democrats, I decided a few years ago that I would vote for the GOP candidate in 2016 no matter who he or she was. Once candidates started declaring, I was confident in my decision. I’m a big supporter of Rand Paul, so he had my vote if he were the nominee. Although I have significant issues with many of the other candidates, I would have voted without hesitation for Cruz, Rubio, Fiorina, Jindal, Santorum, Perry, Walker, and even Bush over Hillary. Heck, I would’ve held my nose and even voted for Kasich. And I believe all of these candidates have very real flaws; I’m not an “idealist” looking for a perfect candidate. Just one who meets the minimum of basic standards.
Objection #2: We’re Not Electing a Pastor in Chief!
Another criticism is that we aren’t electing a “Pastor in Chief” so we shouldn’t care about the character of the person running for president. I don’t care frankly if the person running for president is a practicing Christian or not, but I’d like to be able to know if anything coming out of his mouth is true. With both Hillary and Trump we have two of the most prolific liars in human history. How can I evaluate Trump’s positions when I don’t even know if he believes what he’s saying? In fact, I would argue that Trump has only one “position:” advancing the cause of Trump. I’m not looking for Mother Teresa, but at the same time I don’t want a pathological, narcissistic egotist either (a description that applies to both major candidates).
Objection #3: We Only Have Two Choices
Finally, many argue that we only have two candidates to choose from, and so by not voting for one, we are voting for the other. Yes, Trump might be dirty, they argue, but he is better than Hillary, and these are the only two choices we have. I would argue first that we have no evidence that he will be better than Hillary, and in fact could be much worse. But I also would argue: who made our two-party system so sacred that we can never resist it? If the Democrats nominated Stalin and the the Republicans Hitler (that example might be a bit too close to home), are we required by some sacred U.S. principle that we must vote for one of them? At what point are we allowed to simply say, No, I will not add my voice to this? I honestly wonder if there is any situation in which certain GOP shills would refuse to vote for the Republican.
Ultimately, if Hillary wins, it will be because GOP primary voters selected a reckless reality TV star as their candidate. So a vote for Trump was a vote for Hillary. Any of the other GOP candidates would have trounced her in November. And when Hillary does terrible things in office (which she is sure to do), the fault lies not with #NeverTrumpers, but instead with those who foisted such a despicable candidate on us.
Taking the Long View
Aside from answering these objections, I think there is a more fundamental reason to not vote for Trump in November: the long view.
I’m not simply looking at the next four years, but the next four decades. The GOP has become a dying and pathetic party, with little to offer either conservatives or libertarians. It is nearly as statist and elitist as the Democrat Party. The Republican Party is the Democrat Lite Party. Trump does nothing to combat this, and in fact, he likely will bring the GOP more in line with Democrats.
The next few Supreme Court justices are important, yes, but the future of the republic also includes having a healthy party system in which the people are represented by truly diverse views. Our two-party, Democrat and Republican system is not sacred, and does not need to be propped up by voting for whomever they happen to nominate. Voting for either Hillary or Trump simply further solidifies a corrupt, bankrupt system. Other options are needed. At some point we must resist the pathetic nominees they give us instead of resigning ourselves that this is the best we can do. If Hillary and Trump are the best, our republic is already lost.
Further, pinning our hopes on the Supreme Court has been futile for the past fifty years. Since 1966, we have had 28 years of Republican presidents (vs. 22 years of Democrats) and yet the Supreme Court still routinely confirms laws that are unconstitutional by any sane standard. To think that Trump will magically select justices that will be solid constitutionalists and who will also pass Senate confirmation is delusional. For years Republicans have refused to spend political capital to push for a strong constitutionalist, and it’s a fantasy to think Trump will. Frankly, it’s a fantasy to think Trump even knows what a “constitutionalist” is. We have even seen that justices who appear promising – such as Chief Justice Roberts – may simply assimilate into the elite class like everyone else. We cannot put our hope in the Supreme Court.
What conservatives and libertarians really need to consider now is a more radical approach, one that upends our decrepit two-party system. The nomination of two of the most despised members of our ruling class should be a wake-up call that the system is broken beyond repair. What is needed is an overhaul. Perhaps that means a new, legitimate third-party. Perhaps that means a breaking up of the behemoth “United” States (do I hear a “Texit?”). I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I know the solution isn’t simply voting for another corrupt elite to rule us.
When I said I’d never vote for Trump I meant it. If he is officially nominated in Cleveland, I’ll be officially changing my GOP party registration to either Independent or something else. I care too much for the future of this country to jump on a bandwagon that simply accelerates our decline.